Wednesday, November 09, 2005

No man is an island

For many years of my life I didn’t want to be around people much and when someone mentioned going to church or being part of organized religion my first thought was to avoid it at all costs. My answer would invariably be “I talk to God all the time; I don’t need to go to church”. I was an island unto myself. Like my own little country of one, I protected my boarders and would let few if anyone in.

I was the hero in the cowboy westerns who comes upon the scene standing tall and rides of into the sunset alone. I was lonely, but you would never have heard me say it. I was hurting, but stood tall and would not show my pain. I had watched John Wayne live this life on screen and most the men I had ever known live it in person. I thought this was the right way to live. But it’s really what I call “The Big Lie”.

The big lie is the lie that the devil has been telling for centuries. The sad thing is that over those centuries most of us have listened. I know I did and sometimes I still do. I listened when he whispered “No one cares”. I paid attention when he advised “You’re the only one that feels this way, so just suck it up”. But I have learned that this is not of God.

God is not about loneliness. His joy is not in our suffering in silence in the dark. He doesn't urge us to put on the brave face to hide the pain inside. Quite the contrary. God is about togetherness. His joy is in guiding us through the gauntlet of this life and bringing us through it together. This is why Jesus said "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matt 18:19-20. Jesus promised us that when we come together in unity he comes together with us. This is one of the greatest promises of the Bible.

We are not expected to stand by ourselves. In fact, we are commanded by Jesus, our Lord and Sovereign King to:

  • Love God and those around us. " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " Luke 10:27

  • Love one another. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35

  • Tell each other when we’re hurt. "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matt 18:15

  • Admit our own wrong doing when we’ve hurt each other. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matt 5:23

  • Help each other get to heaven. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb 10:25

We can do none of this alone.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

“Come, follow me”

There’s an old Hymn that says

“This world is not my home,
I’m just a passin’ through.
If Heaven weren’t my home
Then Lord what would I do?

The angels beckon me
From Heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home
In this world any more.”

I feel like that some days. It seems like God is far away and the problems of this world are all around me. At times like those I feel most alone and farthest away from home. I’ve been feeling that way this morning. In times past, going to church or being around the body of believers has helped me come home to the Lord again. But, in its current condition I must confess that my church is not an encouraging place.

Over the past few years the church I attend has changed. Now… change by itself is not necessarily a bad thing. I realize that most of us don’t like change, but sometimes it’s for the best. Take my church for instance. We’ve stopped being so harsh, talked more about the Grace of God than ever before and started to be more focused upon spiritual growth than numerical growth. All of which is for the good. But we’ve stopped doing things together and the feeling of unity in a cause bigger than ourselves is gone.

I was talking with my wife this morning and realizing that the number of things the church does together has dwindled to almost nil. No longer do we excitedly go camping as a church on Memorial Day weekend, drive to Bates Nut Farm to enjoy the day as a church at harvest time, have Sunday service and a Bar-B-Q at the park in the summer, and so on and so on. We can’t even manage to get excited about raising money for missions work. It’s a sad state of affairs to be sure and I find myself very discouraged at times as a result of it.

The question of the day is what to do about it. I find myself with a few clear choices. I can do nothing and feel more discouraged. I can grumble about it to other members of the church and make sure I have company in my misery. I can charge into the fight like a storm trouper and rebuke the leadership and simply cause greater division and become more disgruntled along the way. Or I can take the road Jesus took.

I have learned that Jesus didn’t force anyone to go his way. He simply said “come, follow me” and started walking. The ministry that leads by example is the one Christ chose and the only one that works in the final analysis. So, it’s time for me to go home, hop into God’s big lap and ask my dad to help me to be the example my church can follow. It’s funny as I think about spending time with God to ask for answers that I think he has given me the answer already.

Last night, I shared this idea I had with my wife and she thought it was great. I said, “Honey, why don’t we roll the Bar-B-Q out in the driveway, put up a couple of big folding tables and have a neighborhood Bar-B-Q. The kids can shoot hoops or whatever and the adults can get to know each other. We can even invite folks from church to help us reach out to our neighbors”. She loved it… and I think it’s time we did it. The bottom line is this. I can wait for others to lead the charge or in the absence of such leadership I can pick up Christ’s banner and say “come, follow me”. You know… all of a sudden I’m not feeling so discouraged any more.